Ann Arbor has few restaurants that deserve the attention they get (see this review of Conor O'Neill's). Pacific Rim by Kana fits into the other category, getting attention and credit where credit is due.
The restaurant itself is smaller than I expected, seating less than 100 people when very full. For the night J-- and I went, it was busy, but not more so than I've heard recounted on any normal weekend night. The décor is warm, with red walls accenting light wood paneled walls, and the occasionally well-placed object on the wall.
We had reservations, which is a must for Pacific Rim; I doubt many people go there on a whim and get seated in a reasonable amount of time. Our table for two was, well, it was tiny. With our menus, a glass of water and the place settings, there was precious little room to put the wine and two glasses when they arrived. There were other tables that sat four which provided ample room for two or three, but I imagine a four-top would have had the same space problems we did.
But, on to the important stuff; food! The crab cakes had a reputation that were outdone only by that of the warm chocolate cake. The crab cakes more than lived up to the reputation. I've never had a crab cake so airy and delicate. Forget the semi-deep-fried monstrosities you've had other places. These beauties are worth the reservation alone. Fine strands of carrots and the light breading are accentuated perfectly by the cilantro-lime sauce. If the gushing above doesn't spell it out, we loved these (even J--, who is not a fan of cilantro).
The meal itself was equally as delicious. I ordered the Seared Big Eyed Tuna, which was served in a generous portion in a flourishing fan pattern. A nice, thick piece of deep ruby tuna simply seared and served on a nest of jamica and fried rice wedges. The subtle flavors were incredible, the best tuna we've had in Ann Arbor yet. And while many places concentrate so heavily on the main meat or dish they neglect the accompaniments, Pacific Rim surprised me. The salad and rice accompaniments were fine enough to stand on their own.
J-- had the Panko-breaded Scallops. Large and lightly toasted panko breaded with some black and white sesame seeds, the 6 scallops were cooked perfectly (again, something other restaurants in town haven't figured out). The Japanese broccoli that came with had been roasted in sesame oil, but even after languishing on J--'s plate for twenty minutes, it tasted pretty good to me. The scallop I liberated from J--'s plate was easy on the tongue and almost sweet, a very good sign for scallops that size.
This is where I'm supposed to cap off the meal with the wonderful signature dish, the Warm Chocolate Cake. I can't. Not that it wasn't good. It was, but it wasn't great. The novelty of freshly prepared desserts is great the first couple times ("we ask that you order the cake 20 minutes early as it needs to be prepared"), but it really must be followed up by an exquisite dessert. I made the remark at dinner that I enjoyed the homemade ice cream that came with the cake much more than the cake itself, which earned me a really odd look from J--. (I eat about a pint of ice cream a year, by choice, because I'm not a huge fan of ice cream.) That statement, made in an effort to find something good about the dessert, was more telling to us than anything I can make up for this review. The cake itself was, well, ordinary. It was a decent, freshly made chocolate cake. Maybe I'm missing the point I'm obviously stating in that last sentence, but I couldn't get excited about this dessert.
All and all, however, the meal was excellent, and my taste in desserts shouldn't sway from that point any more than it has already. The food is obviously selected with care and prepared with more of the same. Hell, even the coffee was good. We will absolutely be going back, hopefully this summer when we can eat outside.
Make your reservations now and prepare for a wonderful dinner.
Pacific Rim by Kana
114 W Liberty
Appetizers: $6 - $12
-Good wine list